INDIGO DREAMS PUBLISHING LTD
GEOFF STEVENS MEMORIAL POETRY PRIZE 2021
138 x 216mm
£10.00 + P&P UK
Mermaid on Legs
In ‘Mermaid on Legs’ a mermaid swims in and out of the narrative. She is a selkie, a shapeshifter. When she grows legs and lives on land, she can experience joy and suffering in the body of a woman. However she always has the chance to escape back to the sea. From the fringes of society, living in an ocean where life is dying, she sings you elegies – as well as cheeky scherzos.
“A fascinating first collection, with mermaids – young, mature or ageing – but not always as you might expect. These poems take the reader on unusual explorations – even a fine last will.
Smith deftly explores feminist issues such as agency and the perceived role of women.
Many poems display an environmental concern.”
Christine de Luca
She chose him:
from her angel element
of underworld seaweed
and ascended to join him
in his manly realm
of smelly diesel fumes
and fisher oilskins.
His anchor-tattooed biceps
pulled her aboard,
caught her, clasped her,
his scratchy beard like sand.
She entered his house
and lay down in his bed,
rose up in the morning
and did as a wife.
Winter Welkin Keening
Where can you find me when winter winds whistle?
under the welkin, white with frost,
on a calm day when low tides plash,
and blue hills fade to vanishing point.
In the biting breezes of the North,
I bulk up blubber in defence, and lie
with my sisters, far away from you,
flapping my flippers to keep circulation.
Nipples unsucked by searching mouths
hibernate and hope for warmer dawns,
where engine oil is not pumped out
and swallowed up by wide-eyed pups.
On a dry night, when you’re in bed
we rise for moon rites – and dance
round bonfires in a banshee frenzy
keening for a return to selkie sanity.
Old Mermaids have wrinkles too, you know
a sign of seniority, wisdom, stripes earned
in salty sun, guarding wrecked survivors –
or scolding silly little mermaids sporting.
They can be so cheeky it makes me want to
cut out their wagging tongues, but I’m no witch.
I treasure their lulling voices in sunset songs
and marvel at their slick flicks in unison.
My wrinkly dugs hang down: they’ve given suck
to sweet lips of swimmers limpetted on,
who grew to darting minnows hide-and-seeking
till they left for far-off treasure shores.
My tail has lost its sparkly sequin sheen –
now replaced by decorative hangers on,
who cling to me to show my queenly status.
Necklaces nestle and gleam in my grooves.
Now I wait for the dolphin time, to rise
to the surface to coast again, holding fins,
feeling the speed I’ve lost. Then sink,
thankfully, for quiet drinks with the old men
Sometime, one time, you were treading the earth
until you slipped off this spinning planet.
I still feel that I might walk into you:
one day turn the corner and bump into you.
How odd that you talked politics, lay on your
back to admire the stars, stood on your head,
believed you were Mercury the messenger,
then posted yourself off to another world –
without leaving a note or mark behind.
Lizzie Smith grew up by the seaside in St Andrews in Scotland. She went to Cambridge University to study literature and ended up working in Japan, Switzerland and England.
She has sung some very high notes, climbed several scary mountains and diced with death, diving in Thailand.
Lizzie now lives in Edinburgh with her husband and two children and passes on her love of language, as a teacher.
'Mermaid on Legs' is her first collection.
I am one of the shoal of silver fish
that dart and swim in unison;
I am the wave that gathers speed and height
and crashes in a glorious foamy mess;
then I am strapped to the prow of a stormy ship
exposed to the elements, a vain mascot;
then I am cast in stone on a quay in Denmark
pawed over, snapped at, universally admired;
I am a seal who dives after supper
and enjoys a tasty morsel of squid;
I am the singer of songs near rocks,
warning you – too late I fear.
We are all bound to this universe
if not by time, by matter, I hear.
How do you mount a mermaid?
How do you mount a mermaid?
That’s the question on everyone’s lips,
That’s the eternal mystery –
not whether they really exist.
Well, have you heard of a mermaid’s purse?
On shore it’s crackly and dry;
immersed, it’s wet and makes a pocket
to wriggle a finger in and pry.
Use your imagination, then,
to work out how to grapple,
bed her on the rocking wave –
without gulping too much water.
Like a witch they tried
to duck and drown,
she bobs to the surface,
borne up by billowing skirts,
her hair a halo of seaweed.
The recurring nightmare
of her resurfacing skeleton
taunts the tormentors
as she becomes sanctified
in body, by the water.
Like the figurehead maid displayed
on the jutting battleship Unicorn,
chest first, breast exposed, unfurled,
she will not be cowed:
she rises proud.
On the discovery of Ultimate Thule
Will snowmen melt out of existence
and be remembered in folklore
as being as rare as White Christmases
or lakes freezing over?
I stare at the new ‘snowman’
the paper says has been discovered –
seeing the sign of infinity
as a kind of Trump balloon.
Now we gods do not follow the stars,
we mount and ride past them.
Where are the wise men and women
to halt this flat earth slide?